• 15 Aug - 21 Aug, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
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Miranda July's Kajillionaire is a beautiful and strange look at how the three Dynes have their skimming life shaken up (figuratively and literally) when a stranger sees them clearly. It's also about the need for warmth and human connection; and anyone who believes that need was expressed in a singularly affecting way by July's Me and You and Everyone We Know should probably just stop reading this now and make plans to see this aptly titled new film.

The Dynes are Robert and Theresa (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) and their 26-year-old daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood). We meet them during a tiny scam involving post office boxes. They make next to nothing with this ritual, but the sequence offers the first of several casually arresting images the film has in store. Then it's back home: To an abandoned, cubicle-stuffed office adjoining an unusual sort of factory. The rent is just $500, but keeping the place habitable requires a kooky, Sisyphean chore. As low as the rent is, they're three months behind.

Old Dolio hatches a clever way to make quick (she thinks) cash. It requires the family to take a round trip to New York, during which we learn that the Dynes are no fans of turbulence. It's too much like the tremors they endure in Los Angeles, each of which they fear will be the big one. But the trip earns them more than expected: On the way home they meet a beautiful physician's assistant, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who seems not at all put off by their strange habits. By the time the plane lands, Robert and Theresa are confiding in her like the daughter they never had. Old Dolio is confused and jealous. But Melanie eagerly asks to become part of the gang (she confuses their little scams with Ocean's Eleven-style heists), and knows a way they might take advantage of the elderly.

If the first of these visits to shut-ins is a straightforward way to show just how heartless the older Dynes can be, the second is the kind of sequence few filmmakers would imagine: Exploitation and compassion blend in funny and almost heartbreaking ways. Old Dolio's lack of lived experience transmutes into a kind of Buddhist wisdom; the family briefly gets to play-act at normalcy; everyone sees that, in disruptive ways, Melanie is different from them. Something is set in motion that will play out for the rest of the film.